The great Satan that is “Sharknado” has sort of spoiled B-movies. For ages there, it was a fun little world, full of stupid monsters and movies that at least pretended to take themselves seriously, with former stars rubbing shoulders with people from sci-fi TV shows. Now, of course, everyone has to be in on the joke and the threat must be hybridised – there’s a staggering amount of “Mega X vs. Giant Y” movies either released or in the pipeline.
A couple of years ago, I’d have at least tried to cover them all, but there’s no point, as they sort of defy analysis. They’re not made to be good, they’re made to get people on Twitter mocking them, to provide a few cheap “look at this garbage” laughs and make a few dollars. The theory of indifference, as I christened it a while back.
The reason I picked this one to cover is due to its sequel status to “Lake Placid: The Final Chapter”, which we reviewed a while back. Ah, “final chapter”, when are you not a lie? Apologies if I get one of the names wrong, but Black Lake is where all the bad stuff happened in that movie, and the action in this one moves to Clear Lake, a distance down the road. Returning are Yancy Butler as Reba, now the Sheriff of Clear Lake; and Robert Englund as poacher Bickerman, who keeps getting bits bitten off himself but carries on.
Before we get cracking with the trademark ISCFC half-remembered recap of the movie, a word about Yancy Butler. She had a pretty rough time of it for a few years there around 2003-2008, in and out of drug treatment facilities, pretty heavy alcoholism, and lots of trouble with the law. While the roles have slowed down somewhat since then, it’s always fun to see her, and I hope she’s turned herself around.
Bickerman has taken Beach (Steven Billington) and some scientist guys to Black Lake (remember, despite being the title of the movie, there hasn’t been an actual Lake Placid in this series, ever) for reasons of evil science. Sarah Murdoch (Annabel Wright), evil CEO, is funding all this for a good old fashioned monster movie reason – eternal life! DNA from one of the super-evil crocodiles, injected into a gigantic anaconda, and from the eggs of the snake will come CROCOCONDA!!! I guess these guys will have something in their blood that Murdoch thinks will do the trick but, of course, humans are stupid and you know those creatures are getting out!
Much like the previous Lake Placid movie, it’s divided into three sections, I’m guessing to save money as you only need to pay one group of actors at a time. You’ve got Sheriff Reba, Fish & Wildlife guy Tull (Corin Nemec, sadly not playing his role for laughs), and their people; you’ve got Bickerman, Beach and Murdoch, doing their evil science; and the largest group with the most time devoted to them, two cars full of girls who are pledging to a sorority. Most of them are just meat for the beast, but there’s a core of excellent actors with properly set up personalities. Bethany (Skye Lourie) is Tull’s daughter – traditional for one of these sorts of movies; goth-ish Margot (Ali Eagle), who’s pledging so she’s got material for her psychology class; Tiffany (Laura Dale), the super-bitchy chief sorority sister, a magnificently monstrous performance; and Jane (Heather Gilbert), the sad-sack who gets mercilessly picked on.
Talking of actors, you may notice while watching this that there’s a heck of a lot of dubbing going on. Scrolling further down that cast list, you’ll notice that pretty much everyone who doesn’t survive has an Eastern-European name – filmed in Bulgaria, the home of low-budget US cinema since the late 90s, they must have saved money by just using anyone they could find who could speak English (so the lips roughly matched) and then dubbing them afterwards. A bit off-putting, to say the least.
This movie is really a lot of fun, though. You know what’s going to happen – crocodiles are going to fight giant anacondas – and they give it to you, with blood being thrown about like it’s going out of fashion. Crocodiles eat the smaller snakes, but the bigger ones just wrap themselves around the crocs, squeeze and rip. When you’ve got a croc with a nubile teenager in its mouth at the same time? Gore, and lots of it. Plus, for those of us used to the more chaste world of SyFy Channel movies, there’s a heck of a lot of nudity in this movie too – you don’t hire Eastern European extras for them to keep their clothes on, one would presume. Or SyFy were told they were allowed to have nudity in their movies now and leapt in with both feet, as it were.
Quick note about the special effects: they’re all terrible. If that’s your thing, avoid this like the plague. But if you’re drunk enough, you won’t mind!
I think it’s important to keep mentioning this when it happens, on the off chance that the critical mass of voices will be reached, and movie companies will stop doing it – it’s the blatant double standards. One scene, on a speedboat, the male driver is wearing shorts, a t-shirt and a jacket, yet not only are the two women in the scene wearing tiny bikinis, one of them takes her top off pretty much just because the driver asks her to nicely. The two of them stood together is everything that’s wrong with recent B-movies, in a nutshell. I don’t accept that I’m being a prude, or that feminism is a dead cause, or any of that. No-one, absolutely no-one, watches a movie called “Lake Placid vs. Anaconda” to get turned on, and it’s sleazy middle-aged male producers, directors and distributors that insist on it. Lord knows why. I feel like society has moved on but low-budget movies seem almost to be moving backwards in some of their attitudes.
After the Deputy proves himself too stupid to live (yet somehow survives) and we get an ending which is just drenched in blood and guts, that’s it for another low-budget bit of monster fun. And I know I’ve just spent a chunk of this review criticising it, but that’s more the background noise that so many movies exist in these days than anything terribly specific to this one. It’s got a cast packed with dependable old hands, two low-budget royalty (Butler and Nemec), and a lot of really good new female actors who ought to go on to bigger and better things – I could absolutely see Heather Gilbert in a major network sitcom, for example. But let’s keep our fingers crossed this modern sci-fi portmanteau monster trend dies off soon so we can get back to the classics. I miss a good werewolf movie.
Rating: thumbs up